RENO — Campers and backpackers will have to be more careful than usual if they want to light fires or cigarettes starting Monday, when strict fire restrictions go into effect in western Nevada and portions of the Sierra.
Campfires and smoking are banned outside developed campgrounds in Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service or Nevada Division of Forestry jurisdictions until further notice.
“It’s a little bit earlier than the last several years,” BLM spokesman Mark Struble said. “Usually, it’s been the first of July, but fuels have been dry all the way since last summer since we didn’t have much of a winter. The fire managers feel this is a good time to do it.”
Two major fires already have burned more than 1,300 acres in western Nevada, and there have been scores of smaller blazes, most of them caused by humans.
The crackdown applies to public land in 11 counties in western Nevada and eastern California managed by the BLM’s Carson City Field Office.
It also affects Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest land in the Sierra between Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.
Under the restrictions, campfires are banned outside developed recreational areas, although portable stoves using white gas or propane are permitted.
Charcoal grills and campfires are a big worry because people don’t put them out properly, Struble said.
“A fire pit, if you pick the wrong day to do it when the wind’s more than 5 mph, and that’s every day around here, that’s what makes me nervous,” he said.
Smokers have to keep their cigarettes in their vehicles or at campgrounds.
Fireworks of any kind, including sparklers, are banned and are illegal anyway.
“That’s one of the worst things we face. There’s a lot of ignorance on what the rules are,” Struble said.
While smokers are a concern, “you can only toss a cigarette maybe 10 feet. A bottle rocket goes a lot farther,” Struble said.
Motorists are prohibited from going off-road in some areas and in others are urged to avoid cross-country travel to avoid igniting grass from hot exhaust systems. Drivers are urged to carry at least an ax, a shovel and a gallon of water, and to have a cell phone to report any fires.
Struble warned that anyone found guilty of starting a wildland fire not only faces a fine of up to $10,000 and as much as six months in jail, but is liable for the entire cost of suppression, which can easily run into the millions of dollars.